Train Wreck at South by Southwest

Posted 04.06.2008

Facebook Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg provided a great example (maybe not so great from his perspective) of the need for preparation before presentations at last month’s South by Southwest conference in Austin. As part of the tech portion of the conference, Zuckerberg was giving a “keynote interview” with BusinessWeek journalist Sarah Lacy. So, an interview format, how hard could that be? Just get up there and answer questions, right? No, no, no. Please think again.

If you want a great example of the train wreck that can occur when you go on stage without a game plan, take a look at the first 5 minutes and the last 5 minutes of the video posted below. The biggest issue in the first five minutes is that Lacy and Zuckerberg come off like a couple of best friends who have just bumped into each other and have completely overlooked the fact that there’s an audience out there. That leads to the last five minutes. Using the social media, Twitter (“text messaging” meets “chat room”), the audience started pinging each other with their live critiques and the questions they really wanted asked. In short order, they started shouting out commentary and questions from the audience.

Lessons learned? Here are a few. The big three questions to ask before any key communication or presentation are What? So What? and Now What? Picture the outcome you’re going for before you get onstage. What message are you trying to send? What content does the audience care about and, if you were them, how would you want to be addressed? What do you want the audience to know, think, do, feel or believe as a result of your communication?